Never let it be said that Microsoft doesn’t copy its competitors. Because it always has, and always will and has never “innovated” anything apart from marketing hype.
So it is no surprise to read that Microsoft is going to launch a so-called “smartwatch” in a few weeks, according to a report in Forbes. It has dabbled in these waters before, but without any conspicuous success.
While analysts predict that the so-called “wearable” market will be worth millions in a few years, the jury is still well and truly out on whether people will want to pay good money for smartwatches.
Forbes predicted that the Microsoft watch will track your heart rate and work with different operating systems than just Windows. And it claims it will have a battery life of only two days.
Apparently Apple’s smartwatch has to be charged every night, which is a bit of a pain in the butt. There’s no word on pricing.
The jury is still out on whether smartwatches will storm the market but if one research outfit is to be believed, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
IHS, a market research company based in the USA, says revenues for smartwatches will be worth around $300 million this year and predicts a rise of 80 percent annually for “at least” four more years to come.
IHS claims the market will be worth around $23 billion by 2023, with shipments of 800 million units – compared to 54 million this year. Those optimistic figures are fuelled by the belief that we’ll see better resolution and colour displays in years to come.
Sweta Dash, who analyses displays at IHS, believes that fashion will drive sales. “Wearables are best viewed as functional fashion accessories rather than as electronic goods. Because the fashion accesory market is determined by design rather than by simple function, wearable products such as smartwatches must be adapable to various forms including squares, circles, or even ovals.”
Battery power is important too.
But Dash sounds a word of caution in what otherwise is a very upbeat report. “Smartwatches and smart glasses from Google and others are not completely ready for mainstream consumer adoption.” They’re all expensive and won’t make them mass market until prices drop.
In spite of what can only be described as copious amounts of hype, the wearable tech boom won’t materialise anytime soon, at least if Berg Insight is to be believed.
The research firm estimates sales of wearable technology devices will reach just 64 million in 2017. Worldwide shipments in 2012 reached 8.3 million, so the compound annual growth rate through 2017 should be rather impressive, over 50 percent. However, all that glitters is not gold.
Smart watches are already on sale and they are failing to gain much traction. Even Samsung’s Gear doesn’t appear to be getting a lot of attention. Google’s Glass is still not on the market, but with a very high price tag and numerous questions about privacy and good taste, it doesn’t look too promising.
Smart glasses, watches and fitness trackers still face huge technical challenges that will persist for years to come.
“A perfect storm of innovation within low power wireless connectivity, sensor technology, big data, cloud services, voice user interfaces and mobile computing power is coming together and paves the way for connected wearable technology,” said Johan Svanberg, Senior Analyst, Berg Insight. “However, today’s devices need to evolve into something more than single purpose fitness trackers or external smartphone notification centres in order to be truly successful” continues Mr. Svanberg.
That’s the second challenge. Wearable gear needs to be, well, useful – otherwise it will never gain mass market appeal. The ultimate problem with smart watches isn’t battery life or price, it’s the fact that they don’t offer much functionality. At this point they are basically a second screen for smartphones and due to limited battery life they aren’t very practical, either.